Nature of the work
Whether selling shoes, computer equipment, or automobiles, retail salespersons assist customers in finding what they are looking for. They also try to increase sales by describing a product's features, demonstrating its uses, and promoting its value.
In addition to selling, many retail salespersons—especially those who work in department and apparel stores—conduct financial transactions with their customers. This usually involves receiving payments by cash, check, debit card, or credit card; operating cash registers; and bagging or packaging purchases. Depending on the hours they work, retail salespersons may have to open or close cash registers. This work may include counting the money in the register and separating charge slips, coupons, and exchange vouchers. Retail salespersons also may have to make deposits at a cash office. (Cashiers, who have similar duties, are discussed elsewhere in the Handbook.) In addition, retail salespersons may help stock shelves or racks, arrange for mailing or delivery of purchases, mark price tags, take inventory, and prepare displays.
For some sales jobs, particularly those involving expensive and complex items, retail salespersons need special knowledge or skills. For example, salespersons who sell automobiles must be able to explain the features of various models, the manufacturers' specifications, the types of options and financing available, and the details of associated warranties. In addition, all retail salespersons must recognize security risks and thefts and understand their organization’s procedure for handling such situations—procedures that may include notifying security guards or calling police.
Education and Training
There usually are no formal education requirements for retail sales positions, but employers often prefer applicants with a high school diploma or its equivalent. This may be especially important for those who sell technical products or “big-ticket” items, such as electronics or automobiles. A college degree may be required for management trainee positions, especially in larger retail establishments.
Most retail salespersons receive on-the-job training, which usually lasts anywhere from a few days to a few months. In small stores, newly hired workers usually are trained by an experienced employee. In large stores, training programs are more formal and generally are conducted over several days. Topics often include customer service, security, the store's policies and procedures, and cash register operation. Depending on the type of product they are selling, employees may be given additional specialized training. For example, those working in cosmetics receive instruction on the types of products the store offers and for whom the cosmetics would be most beneficial. Likewise, those who sell computers may be instructed in the technical differences between computer products. Because providing the best possible service to customers is a high priority for many employers, employees often are given periodic training to update and refine their skills.
Employment is expected to grow by 8 percent over the 2008–18 decade, about as fast as the average for all occupations. In addition, given the size of this occupation, about 374,700 new retail salesperson jobs will arise over the projections decade—more jobs than will be generated in almost any other occupation.
Employment growth among retail salespersons reflects rising retail sales stemming from a growing population. Many retail establishments will continue to expand in size and number, leading to new retail sales positions. Growth will be fastest in general merchandise stores, many of which sell a wide assortment of goods at low prices. As consumers continue to prefer these stores other establishments with higher prices, growth in this industry will be rapid. Employment of retail sales persons is expected to decline in department stores and automobile dealers as these industries see a reduction in store locations.
Despite the growing popularity of electronic commerce, the impact of online shopping on the employment of retail salespersons is expected to be minimal. Internet sales have not decreased the need for retail salespersons. Retail stores commonly use an online presence to complement their in-store sales, and many consumers prefer to buy merchandise in person. Retail salespersons will remain important in assisting customers, providing specialized service, and increasing customer satisfaction.
Median hourly wages of wage-and-salary retail salespersons, including commissions, were $9.86 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $8.26 and $13.35 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.37, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $19.14 an hour. Median hourly wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of retail salespersons in May 2008 were as follows: Automobile dealers: $18.91/hr; Building material and supplies dealers: $11.95/hr; Other general merchandise stores $9.22/hr; Department stores: $9.14/hr; Clothing Stores: $8.94/hr.
Story & Salary information courtesy of Bureau of Labor Statistics